Over half a million sets of fingerprints – equivalent to a set checked every 30 seconds 24 hours a day – have been taken from visa applicants following moves designed to strengthen UK border control.
Compulsory fingerprinting is now part of the UK visa application process in just under half of the countries of the world. Through the introduction of this measure over 6,000 sets of prints have been quickly and successfully matched to individuals who are of concern.
Fingerprints are taken as part of the visa application process and are then checked against UK Government records to identify if the individual is already know to the UK immigration authorities. Once in the UK the authorities can use the same data to check if someone is eligible to work, or to help reissue travel documents if they are lost or destroyed.
Home Office Minister Liam Byrne said:
"New fingerprint visas are fast becoming our first line of defense against illegal immigration. By collecting fingerprint information on foreign nationals coming to the UK in advance of their journey, we are building a new overseas border control which is flushing out the false visa applicants”
Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Dr Kim Howells said:
"Recording biometric information allows us to fix an individual’s identity at the earliest point practicable and track their future dealings with the UK. In the past year, we have started to introduce biometric data collection technology to the visa application process. This is a key part of our objective of strengthening our borders."
There is international interest in the use of biometrics such as fingerprints for a range of purposes including border control.